Private flights: the reasons for a sharp increase in demand

An interview with Luciano Luffarelli, head of external communication and institutional affairs for Piaggio Aerospace.

Until recently, private flights for 4 to 7 people were synonymous with luxury and wealth, but today they also play an extremely important social role and above all allow passengers to fly safely.
At the start of the emergency, many people decided to use alternative solutions for transfers to and from international borders. In addition, thanks to private jets, it was possible to repatriate people stranded abroad.

Could the new rules of social distancing on flights and at airports push even more customers to choose private flights and consequently increase the production of light jets?

Piaggio Aerospace remained almost always operational

– Luciano, how did your company experience the lockout period?
– Piaggio Aerospace remained almost always operational (60% of employees work, including a third in smart working), with the exception of a few days at the end of March to carry out some disinfection interventions. The company immediately accepted the recommendations of the Italian government concerning the control of the infection, by adopting all the necessary measures (limitation of the number of people in the company, adoption of smart work, distribution of personal protective equipment and disinfectants, suspension of transfers, etc.).
– According to some experts, the demand for private jets increased considerably during the coronavirus emergency and nowadays private flights are no longer intended to be a convenience or a luxury display, but play an extremely important role in allowing you to fly safely in this difficult time. Do you agree with this observation?
– During this pandemic period, private flights allowed the return home of kilometers of people stranded abroad or in any case far from their home, not necessarily identifiable with the categories generally associated with the use of private flights (VIP, CEO, managers). In addition to this, however, the urgency of the Coronavirus has brought to the fore the use of private flights which – far from the concepts of luxury and comfort – have always existed but to which less space has been devoted. This is mainly medical transport, which increased by 50% between April and May. The collaboration between private aviation and rescuers is very close because the small size of the air ambulances, as well as their technical characteristics, make them essential to carry out urgent missions in areas difficult to access. To give you a concrete example, in France, the company Oyonnair – specialized in medical evacuations and organ transport – used 4 Piaggio Avanti II to transport COVID19 patients to territories where the means of the local armed forces could not function. All in an emergency and with very little notice, as well as – obviously – in complete safety. In addition to this, it is also worth mentioning the transport of personnel and medical equipment on board our P.180 by the Italian armed forces, including the state police, the carabinieri and the Guardia di Finanza.

A new trend

– In your opinion, what are the factors determining this new trend and what are the advantages of using private flights? This interest is probably due to the fact that some people are still afraid of flying with traditional planes and wish to minimize the risks of contagion or perhaps they simply do not want to respect the strict rules introduced by the big airlines, what do you think?
– The greater security of a private flight, due to the lower exposure to other passengers, undoubtedly influenced the choice of this solution, but we do not think that this is the only factor to take into consideration. Consider, for example, saving time, greater scheduling flexibility, but also – and especially in this case – the possibility of reaching areas not served by commercial aviation. In a word: versatility. It is the driving factor of the resilience of the private aviation sector which – despite an undeniable decline in turnover in April – the following month has already shown signs of recovery much faster than commercial aviation.
– If the demand for private jets increases, the production of light aircraft should automatically increase. Does your business receive multiple orders from buyers during this period?
– Of course, interest in our planes remains alive in all the main regions of the world. However, at this particular time, the actual increase in orders is affected by the greater propensity to protect the liquidity of potential buyers.
– More than 5,000 airports worldwide are created for private aviation. In Sardinia with the jets, tests have just started for the arrival of tourists. Do you think interest in private aircraft will also increase in the near future or is this a temporary trend?
– Regarding the P.180 reference market – namely the turboprop and light aircraft – until 2029, analysts predict a constant flow of deliveries equal to at least 300 aircraft per year.